A close aide to Pope Francis has drawn the ire of Italy’s anti-immigrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini by climbing down a manhole to restore electricity to hundreds of homeless people living in an occupied building.
Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, 55, whose job is to distribute the Pope’s charity funds, went to the disused state-owned building near a Rome cathedral on Saturday night and broke a police seal to re-connect electrical circuit breakers.
To some, he was a hero of sorts by Monday morning as the news went viral. Rome’s left-leaning La Repubblica newspaper ran a banner headline calling him “The Pope’s Robin Hood” and praising him for doing the right thing under the circumstances.
“What can I say? It was a particularly desperate situation. I repeat: I assume all the responsibility. If a fine arrives, I’ll pay it,” Krajewski said in an interview in Corriere della Sera newspaper yesterday. The building has been occupied since 2013 by Italians who had lost their homes and migrants. It houses some 450 people, including about 100 children. It had been without power since May 6 because some 300,000 euro in electricity bills had not been paid. “Defending illegality is never a good sign,” Salvini, who has often clashed with the pope on migration and other social issues, told reporters on Monday.
“There are many Italians and even legal immigrants who pay their bills, even if with difficulty. People can do what they please but as interior minister, I guarantee the rules.”